THE BLOG
05/09/2013 02:50 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013

How to Protect Young Women

This week we saw two crimes against young women in the headlines in mainstream media. The first report was that Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the man in charge of The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program for the US Air Force, was charged with sexual assault on a woman in a parking lot

The other story involved the freeing of three young women allegedly abducted and used as sexual slaves in Cleveland, Ohio by Ariel Castro, a man who lived in their neighborhood.

These two crimes shocked the nation because they were stories not usually featured by mainstream news sources, and they showcased the failure of our military and police to protect young women from violent crimes committed by men.

These stories bear superficial similarities. Both crimes involved sexual abuses by men against women. There were multiple women victims in each crime. And both crimes involved women who had the courage to fight back against their abuser.

But there is a link between the two crimes. They show a common pattern of abusive behavior that the rest of us can use to spot and prevent sexual abuse of women and girls in this country and elsewhere.

A cover story

Many years ago I had an office next to a librarian (now deceased) who decided to go on a trip to Iceland with a group of students. This trip was sponsored by the University we worked at and was led by a professor at that college.

When my friend returned from her trip she was wearing sunglasses in winter.

"What happened?' I aksed.

She took off the sunglasses and replied tersely, "I ran into a door."

I knew that wasn't true. My coworker was also a friend - with whom I saw my first three Bruce Springsteen concerts. It took patience to get the real story, and I had to promise her I wouldn't say anything.

On her Iceland trip, the professor and students played cards and drank each night. My friend didn't play cards and she felt she didn't quite fit in. She chose to stay in her room and read instead

One night she fell asleep while reading. She was woken by the drunken professor shaking her. He was angry and began shouting at her. He accused her of "thinking she was too good to associate with the rest them." He was so angry he punched her in the eye as well as bruised her arm.

My friend insisted he hadn't raped her. But did he and she was too ashamed to say so? Either way she must have been terrified an in fear for her life. She became very withdrawn after that trip and soon left the library. But before she moved away two things happened.

The administration of our college gave one of the administrative staff a mandate to look into sexual harassment and rape on campus and come back with a full report. At the same time, I resigned from a committee of all-women faculty members who were setting up a women's studies program. I felt I didn't fit in with that group.

Shortly afterwards, I was shocked to discover the women's studies committee asked a man to head up the new program - the very same man who had attacked my friend.

Reporting sexual abuse of women

I got permission from my friend to report her story to the woman heading up the investigation into sexual harassment on campus, as long as I didn't mention my friend's name.

I made an appointment to talk with the investigator, a friend with whom I'd served with on college committees. I was comfortable telling her the story and sharing my feelings about the University appointing a such a man to be head of women's studies.

Then I looked up. I noticed that the closed door had a a large opening above it. I realized anyone, even the man I was talking about, who worked in or came into the office outside that door could have heard me talking with the investigator. The investigator had been given an office that had no privacy!

I wasn't surprised then that the administration did nothing as a result of my "confidential" report. The man who beat up my friend remained head of women's studies, his golden reputation on campus as a liberal, untarnished.

Stopping sexual abuse of women

One truly useful piece of information came out in the reports about the man in Cleveland who confined three girls in a soundproof room with chains in the basement of his house for ten years.

According to a psychological expert on MSNBC, the alleged abuser asked the parents of one of the abducted girls how they were handling the loss of their daughter. He was sympathetic, and they thought, a friend. He even helped them search for their girl. The expert called this behavior an example of extreme denial and dissociation from his crime on the abuser's part.

I call it a deliberate strategy used by cunning abusers of women. They camouflage themselves and cover up their tracks by appearing to be men who care deeply about women. Imagine the horror and bravery of the woman who outed a commanding officer in the Air Force with the truth about why he chose to become a "protector "of women in the military!

Please understand this dynamic. Positions involving protection or support of women and women's issues are magnets for men who are sexual and physical abusers of women. These men are like pedophiles at a playground. Men such as Jerry Sandusky and Father Michael Fugee who are placed in or assume positions of trust over minors can be the very people who horribly abuse that trust.

Men who appear to sympathize with female victims of abuse or with the relatives of those women are not necessarily abusers of women - but they could be. Look long and hard at these "good" men before you trust them.

Insist that our organizations such as police, churches, schools, colleges, and the military put women in positions of power to prevent and/or deal with crimes against women or at the very least, closely investigate the men they choose for such positions.